Sunday, January 27, 2013

Theatre's take on deskilled art performance

"The director I spoke to said that the visual arts world, somewhat understandably, finds theater laughable and as a result rarely studies it. While I share the visual arts world's distaste for popular theater predicated on "psychological realism", I lament the fact that there are many, many devoted practitioners of contemporary performance who are as dramaturgically engaged in the construction of their time-based work as visual artists are in creating the intellectual framework around their object-based work, and that this is, apparently, not recognized or valued by the visual arts world. It is as if when visual artists and curators "discover performance" they think that they are the first to ever encounter the aesthetic issues it proposes. It would seem that they are frequently unaware of – or indifferent to – the fact that there is a long history of performance theory; that theater, and especially dance, have for many years explored issues around presence, embodiment, presentational aesthetics, the observed/observer relationship, the visual presentation of the constructed environment, the semiotics of representation, etc., etc. The visual art world might be surprised to read Hans-Thies Lehmann's seminal writing on post-dramatic theater..."

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Functional fixedness

Is functional fixedness universal?

Researchers have investigated whether functional fixedness is affected by culture.
In a recent study, preliminary evidence supporting the universality of functional fixedness was found (German & Barret, 2005). The study's purpose was to test if individuals from non-industrialized societies, specifically with low exposure to "high-tech" artifacts, demonstrated functional fixedness. The study tested the Shuar, hunter-horticulturalists of the Amazon region of Ecuador, and compared them to a control group from an industrial culture.
The Shuar community had only been exposed to a limited amount of industrialized artifacts, such as machete, axes, cooking pots, nails, shotguns, and fishhooks, all considered "low-tech". Two tasks were assessed to participants for the study: the box task, where participants had to build a tower to help a character from a fictional storyline to reach another character with a limited set of varied materials; the spoon task, where participants were also given a problem to solve based on a fictional story of a rabbit that had to cross a river (materials were used to represent settings) and they were given varied materials including a spoon. In the box-task, participants were slower to select the materials than participants in control conditions, but no difference in time to solve the problem was seen. In the spoon task, participants were slower in selection and completion of task. Results showed that Individuals from non-industrial ("technologically sparse cultures") were susceptible to functional fixedness. They were faster to use artifacts without priming than when design function was explained to them. This occurred even though participants were less exposed to industrialized manufactured artifacts, and that the few artifacts they currently use were used in multiple ways regardless of their design. (German & Barret, 2005)

Old company

Monday, January 21, 2013

The Laptop

Kind of where I am at as well

'Laptop entirely. I've been through a few now, since my first white macbook. The intimacy afforded by a laptop – the sense of coincidence, of coalescence – inducted a kind of space that matched my rather distracted thinking and, really, alienation. Everything could happen in one place and at more or less the same time and on my own. Simultaneous production – a kind of super-positioning – seemed possible. I could write in Word while something rendered in Final Cut, something else converted in Streamclip, something else downloaded, something else uploaded, music played and video spooled – all in the same place. That sense of convergence has only increased over time. Pragmatically, things get pushed through one final cipher usually: Premiere these days for the videos; Indesign for the texts. But the work will have touched or been chiselled from, reduced by, whittled down using all manner of other bits of software and digital process. I've stopped using a camera – perhaps temporarily – relying solely on my laptop as the confluence and generator of everything. There are side effects, of course. I'm using Self Control at the moment. It's an app that blocks access to the internet for a given amount of time. It's effectively a pair of blinkers to funnel my concentration.'

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Friedrich Kittler

Do you know anything about this Kittler guy. It's interesting to find a whole school of thought you never knew existed. I find this interesting, re-reading an entire philosophical system in a Marxist fashion where it should be interpreted in terms of the technologies of 'mediation' available at the time. Lacan is a rereading of Freud under the conditions of New Media, RSI corresponds to the gramophone,  typewriter and film? Not sure how the recorded music should correspond to the Real.

What could the new sciences and methods be, then? We learned that Jacques Lacan rewrote Sigmund Freud with the help of new media, with computing, in short, since Freud's psychoanalysis was based only on the first industrial revolution, not the second. Subsequently, we were also asked to rewrite the history of whatever branch of or in the humanities in terms of media. That was the task, his aim, or our goal. And we learned many other stories relating theories with technical media... That McLuhan was actually a scholar in literature and that he was strongly inspired by Harold A. Innis and his book "Empire and Communications"... That the famous sentence "The Medium is the Message" was "stolen" from the Bell Labs and was originally called "Fitting the Message to the Line"...

Kittler - he - would go during these days much further than McLuhan and Foucault together. Foucault ended with the typewriter, Kittler evidently claimed. Indeed, we don't read from Foucault anything on radio or on tv or on vinyl as such. Just a bit on the typewriter. The theoretical distinction by Jacques Lacan, the real, the symbolic, and the imaginary, got with Kittler a "historical base": We learned to read RSI as gramophone, typewriter, and film. And so on and so on... In addition, nobody else except Kittler would talk to us about media like Godard or Straub and Huillet. He was the only one in Berlin. So, of course, we went to his lectures again and again. Without question, and questioning Kittler - for us - was a "New Foucault", a Foucault of media - of old media, and with new media in particular.

I've started these Python tutorials, up to lesson 16. You should give them a go, I think you'd be better than me, its just formulas and algorithms, but I am determined to get a handle on programming-not to know it seems to be a kind of new illiteracy.

The Cathedral and the Bazaar

Tuesday, January 15, 2013


An Introduction to Kulturtechnik: American Liberalism as a Cultural Technology

Humans or machines? Discourse or hardware? Since the mid-1980s these were the methodological questions that divided the anthropocentrism of Anglo-American cultural studies from the technophilia of German media theory. However in the past decade an emerging field of research known as Kulturtechnik—which may be translated as cultural technologies or cultural techniques—has deconstructed these oppositions. By rereading the media theoretical approach associated with Friedrich Kittler through the analytic frameworks of actor-network theory and the ethnographic methodology of Marcel Mauss, theorists of Kulturtechnik have developed a non-anthropocentric epistemology that is equally attentive to the role of human techniques and material technologies in constituting cultural form and practice. Despite the successful institutionalization of Kulturtechnik in Germanophone universities' departments and curricula, and its complementarity to a host of non-humanisms developing in Europe and North America, this methodology remains largely unknown outside the German-speaking world.


This paper introduces the conceptual and methodological frameworks of Kulturtechnik through a re-interpretation of American liberalism (ca. 1790-1900). Classical theories classified liberalism as a style of economic and political association founded upon the reason and consent of autonomous, self-possessing individuals. This emphasis on the rights and autonomy of human individuals furnished opponents of state tyranny and coercion with a powerful device for rhetorical critique. However it also tended to produce a vision of society as what William James once termed a "congeries of solipsisms," wherein each mind was aimlessly adrift from the next.


Drawing on recent research in Kulturtechnik, I argue for a reconceptualization of liberalism as a "cultural technology of synchronization." According to this interpretation, American liberalism shifted the task of binding and regulating the body politic from the sovereign and the state to private networks of communication including the press, interstate commerce, and political meeting. A strategic assembly of instruments, techniques, and rights ordered individuals' associations. Through considerations of the essential role played by the printing press, canals, and railways, I demonstrate how technical media were coextensive with the form of liberal politics and content of liberal reason. The resulting analysis offers an historical and ethnographic account of liberalism as a hybrid form of political life based on the strategic association of human and non-human actors.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Gilles Deleuze on "Voyage"

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Sunday, January 6, 2013

The Accursed Share

Thus according to Bataille's theory of consumption, the accursed share is that excessive and non-recuperable part of any economy which is destined to one of two modes of economic and social expenditure. This must either be spent luxuriously and knowingly without gain in the arts, in non-procreative sexuality, in spectacles and sumptuous monuments, or it is obliviously destined to an outrageous and catastrophic outpouring, in the contemporary age most often in war, or in former ages as destructive and ruinous acts of giving or sacrifice, but always in a manner that threatens the prevailing system.

The notion of "excess" energy is central to Bataille's thinking. Bataille's inquiry takes the superabundance of energy, beginning from the infinite outpouring of solar energy or the surpluses produced by life's basic chemical reactions, as the norm for organisms. In other words, an organism in Bataille's general economy, unlike the rational actors of classical economy who are motivated by scarcity, normally has an "excess" of energy available to it. This extra energy can be used productively for the organism's growth or it can be lavishly expended. Bataille insists that an organism's growth or expansion always runs up against limits and becomes impossible. The wasting of this energy is "luxury". The form and role luxury assumes in a society are characteristic of that society. "The accursed share" refers to this excess, destined for waste.

Crucial to the formulation of the theory was Bataille's reflection upon the phenomenon of potlatch. It is influenced by Marcel Mauss's The Gift, as well as by Friedrich Nietzsche's On the Genealogy of Morals.

Volume 1 introduces the theory and provides historical examples of the functioning of general economy: human sacrifice in Aztec society, the monastic institutions of Tibetan Lamaism, the Marshall Plan, and many others. Volumes 2 and 3 extend the argument to eroticism and sovereignty, respectively.

The book was first published by Les Éditions de Minuit in 1949, but was re-edited in 1967. It is collected in volume seven of Bataille's complete works.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

While on the subject

"Generally speaking, the misfit's story is easier to tell," Abrahamson says. "I've done it myself – twice. Richard is a good guy, but good guys are complex, too. I was thinking about those boys and the pressure they're under, their inability to deal with fractures in that perfect sphere of life. It's the kind of situation we all know, where we disappoint ourselves, and we have to deal with the disjunction between what we would like to be and what we are. I was interested in the narrative of how we nurture our elite in this society: all that stuff about believing in yourself and not accepting second best. Our inner world is at odds with that. What's fascinating about a boy of Richard's age is that he still believes his own bullshit. If you meet an adult who believes his own schtick to that extent, you're talking about someone like Simon Cowell – you know, a monster. But at 18 or 19, it's naively-held and it can be attractive."

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Was Einsteinian physics the Neo-Liberalism of Science?

'In fact, according to them, it is something worse. Modern physics as we understand it, as has been explained to the public by science-spokesmen like Kaku, Neil deGrasse Tyson, and Brian Greene, is almost entirely a product of mathematical modeling which decades ago unmoored itself from any responsibility to make deductions based upon observed data coming from nature. And the universe they describe looks quite different from the universe with which we have come to be familiar.'